I was negative years old in 1983, so I couldn’t jump on the Talisman train when Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop got together, created some terrible box art, and brought it out to the world. The urge to call my parents and ask why they took so long is strong in me as I play through the “Prologue" iPad version of Talisman as a first-timer. It’s a superb game that cuts to the core of what makes RPGs great. You take quests, you fight a bunch of bad dudes, you find fat loot, and you create your fairly epic story in about 20 minutes or less.
Rewinding a bit, Talisman Prologue on mobile is a fantasy-ass fantasy RPG. In it, you play as an adventurer tasked with doing hero-y deeds. As a Barbarian, for example, one of the quests charges you with saving a princess from a duo of ogres and taking her back to the castle. The first Monk quest has you looking for a cross and delivering it to the Chapel because looking for artifacts is pretty cool. Other adventurers have more… narratively adventurous quests, but you get the idea. Also, all the production design in the game is traditional; it has that rugged, old-school pulp fantasy book look that extends all the way to creature design and into font.
This is also a board game. You move around spaces on the board by rolling dice. For the most part, each space represents a kind of land — plains, caves, forests, deserts; you know, the usual. When you land on a space, you’re asked to draw a card. Cards grant you items or gold. Most, however, are monster cards that force you into battle with whatever is displayed the face of the card, be it a goblin or a homicidal bear. The deck of cards you’re drawing from is pretty loaded with cards that’ll benefit you, so your hero arc is lightning fast. You move from Underpowered, Worthless Adventurer Guy to Conquerer of Mad Bears and Dragons in minutes. I like this deck mechanic a lot. The obvious thing it does is inform and color your adventure. But, it’s also nice because of the randomness, which keeps you from getting too comfortable.
The board has three tiers. The easiest way to explain this is imagine a Monopoly board, except with three rings of properties: an outer, middle, and inner. You begin on the outer tier of the board. You’ve got to “break" into the other tiers by doing special tasks. The middle tier, for example, is surrounded by a moat. If you draw an Axe item from the deck you can use it to build a raft and cross. You can also just walk across a bridge, but you’ll have to fight a nasty sentinel to get through. Enemies and dangers seem to scale as you go further into the board, so it’s wise to kinda hang out on the edges until you’re ready. The game scores you based on speed, though, so the faster you go, the better your score.
You don’t level up traditionally, by the way. Instead, the cards you draw can give you bumps in strength and mana. You can also get boosts or reductions from cities and towns via enchantment or black-smithery. In each quest the Adventure Deck has different cards, so considering what’s in the deck can influence a lot of your decisions. Do you want to spend the one gold for a sword at the blacksmith or should you just wait for one of the two axes from the deck to drop and use that money elsewhere? It’s up to you!
In one of my sessions today, I went straight beast mode. Early on I earned +4 strength, which is kinda nuts. I fought a dragon, killed a lion, obliterated a goblin and later a bandit. Feeding off that frenzy and feeling maybe a little too good, I decided to test my luck with the Enchantress. Predictably, instead of bumping up my strength even more she ended up turning me into a frog for three turns. My adventurer, still clutching the remnants of the humble pie he just had a taste of, eventually did save the princess, so there’s that.
There’s some finer points I haven’t hit on, but our video should give you a pretty good idea of how the game’s systems interact together. If you’re interested in the game as a whole, the Wikipedia page is a good place to hit, too.
Also, it’s super important to note that this “Prologue" release is just a single-player take on Talisman made to get users comfortable with the game and its systems. A full-on multiplayer version is coming down the line. Cool?
Talisman Prologue is due out tonight on iPad and iPhone. It’ll be $4.99. There’s a PC version available now and a Steam version will happen if publisher Thumbstar can drum up enough support on Greenlight. For the former, you can add the game onto your Watch List with the TouchArcade app (Free) and get a push notification whenever it hits. That’s cool!
International App Store Link: Talisman Prologue HD, $4.99